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Past and present Premiers pay tribute to Bermuda’s first Black Cabinet Secretary

Kenneth Richardson with Brenda, his wife (File photograph)

Kenneth Richardson, the island’s first Black Cabinet Secretary who served in the role from 1984 to 1993, has died at 82.

Mr Richardson, who had to step down as top civil servant for health reasons, was recalled by Sir John Swan, a former Premier, as “truly a gentleman and a statesman who embraced the better qualities of every human being”.

Sir John said Mr Richardson played “a major role in the affairs of Bermuda, as he has in my own life”.

Known for fairness and impartiality, Mr Richardson launched his career in public service as a secondary schoolteacher in 1964.

He served in the Colonial Secretary's Office before going abroad to complete postgraduate studies.

While attending Howard University in Washington, DC, he met his future wife, Brenda.

The couple, who married in 1966, had two children, Andrew and Tammy.

Mr Richardson worked in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, where he played a role in the resolution of several labour disputes between 1974 and 1983.

Sir John said they had both attended Howard Academy, an influential school for black pupils on the island, and discovered they had “very similar ideas about life”.

Sir John said he met Mr Richardson in Government in 1976 when he was appointed Minister of Immigration.

He added: “I felt I had a person who understood and shared my desire to look after the affairs of Bermuda and the issues of labour which were cantankerous at the time.

“We blended as a team with support from other civil servants and were able to move Bermuda to a transition of co-operation and a spirit of getting things done.”

The two travelled to Washington several times in the 1980s to seek the help of the Reagan Administration, and in particular its State and Treasury Departments, in implementing the US/Bermuda Tax Treaty.

Sir John, who served as Premier from 1982 to 1995, said Mr Richardson was “my right hand man” while in office.

“We prepared Bermuda for the 21st century both in infrastructure and programmes.”

Mr Richardson struggled through operations for brain surgery after he fell ill with a brain tumour in 1988.

His second bout of brain surgery left him unable to talk, and Mr Richardson underwent arduous physical therapy.

His wife told The Royal Gazette in 1998: “What is so great about Ken is that he never lets himself get down. He just gets up and pushes on.”

Sir John called him compassionate and fair.

He added: “I have never seen Ken being unfair, angry or ill tempered.”

Sir John said Mr Richardson went on to work in his company and became “truly a part of the Swan Group family”.

“All of us at the company will need to take time to make an adjustment because no longer having his presence will have a major effect on us, as it will his family, relatives, and friends.

“He shared something very special with all of us and he will remain an icon to Bermuda.”

Sir John added: “We have not just lost a civil servant, not just a husband, father and grandfather, but a friend to many people.“

Today Premier David Burt also paid tribute, saying: “From the classroom at Howard Academy to the Cabinet Room, Mr Richardson was the same calming and professional presence.

“He was the consummate public officer, possessed of a keen intellect and commitment to the development of sound policy to the benefit of all Bermudians.

“Wherever he employed his talents, they always elevated the institutions he was called to serve.

“Bermuda remembers him as a man of commitment and character, and I join with all those who wish comfort to his beloved wife, Brenda, his children Andrew and Tammy and his entire family.”

⋅ Kenneth Alfred Augustus Richardson, a former Cabinet Secretary, was born on February 13, 1939. He died in March 2021. Mr Richardson was 82.

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Published March 15, 2021 at 8:22 am (Updated March 15, 2021 at 8:22 am)

Past and present Premiers pay tribute to Bermuda’s first Black Cabinet Secretary

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